tv Newsweek South Asia PBS July 28, 2013 3:00pm-3:31pm PDT
>>a state with seemingly boundless diversity! a land of plenty that was california. a place for dreamers, a refuge for relics - there always seems to be room for all types here. man's hand has greatly changed california. concrete rivers, monster cities, and endless valleys of grass that are today, only crops. persecution and changes nearly stripped the state of the greatest biological treasures and some disappeared completely. the state flag itself holds the image of the extinct california grizzly. there are miracles of survival too. many of the most compelling stories can be found along the picturesque coastline. one of the best places to observe the unique life here is one of my favorite places on the planet, point lobos state reserve. >>that's a cute little guy isn't it? that's a harbor seal. it's
really one of the most common and widespread seals in north america. matter of fact, that is the seal that most people have seen, if you've seen a seal on the east coast of the us, but they're also common here in california. there's somewhere between 18 and 20 thousand of them here so they're not an uncommon sight and that's particularly due to the fact that they're usually found in shallow water and often times in protected, sheltered coves and bays like this one right here, that's how they got the name harbor seal. now a big one of these is only about 6 feet long and they may weigh in at 300 pounds on the top end. so they're really not that much bigger than a sea otter. has a really unique biology though. it's the only piniped here in this part of california that doesn't form harems. doesn't mean it's monogamous, it definitely isn't. another interesting fact is that the young is what we call precocious - it's born ready to roll. large young that immediately take off and swim with the mother. like most
of the seals they have a really short lactation period, they're only feeding, they're only nursing for about 4 weeks on really, really rich milk, has a lot of fat in it. and they grow quickly but the little baby harbor seal will jump right in the water with the mother, swim around with the mother while she's feeding and follow her around and learn really how to be a harbor seal. so a neat animal and one that doesn't venture far away from the coast. they'll dive but it's much more common to see these seals here in shallow water feeding on the abundant sea life that occurs right here in the tidal zone. >>♪music. >>ah, that's a beauty! check out that! the diversity in california doesn't end when you reach the ocean it's only just beginning. i'm standing in a rocky intertidal system and it's one of the most diverse in the world and it's also extremely productive. that means there's a
lot of biomass produced here and that means there's a lot of food for a lot of different critters. this is a purple crab, he's well named; he's really purple. purple crab is only one of a horde of things that are out here. it's incredible the diversity in these tide pools. we see anemones, not just one type; but several but this particular pool seems to be dominated by aggregating anemones. there's limpets coating everything. limpets are gastropods, they're snails. when the tide's down like this they just sit absolutely anchored, stuck up against the rock along with mussels. this place is full of mussels on the steep slopes that are closer to the water. and the mussels, the limpets, provide food for birds. we've watched several species out here feeding as the tide races out but the most distinctive to me is the black oystercatcher - that solid black bird that's superbly adapted to feeding
on the rocks. he still has that long bill used for prying off limpets from rocks and also prying into and prying off mussels. that's primarily what that species is out here feeding on. and it has to get up and down those slippery rock surfaces and it does it with special adaptations on its feet. sometimes they're referred to as kind of caulk- like. there's cormorants here feeding on fish, diving, and there's two species. here close to shore much more commonly throughout the year we'll see pelagic cormorants. and right here on the cliffs beside me we have large breeding colonies, just starting. pelagic cormorants building nests. brandt's cormorants are our other cormorant here and to see those you have to go all the way out to bird island today and there's only a few out there right now, but later in the season they'll be thousands and thousands of brandt's cormorants nesting on the upper sloped or flat surfaces of that island. a diverse habitat not just in the animals but also in the plants from the bright pink coralline
algae that we see here some that look just like frills, others, purple chains. incredible things. to the giants, the ones that form forests just off the shore, kelp, like this giant bull kelp or bull-whip kelp that's washed up here. they have floating bladders and they're filled with gas and the kind of gas that's in there is kind of neat too. it's carbon monoxide. kelp forests provide a safe harbor and a feeding ground for one of the rarest animals that we have in central california. >>♪music. >>the california sea otter. though they appear cute and cuddly, these 4-5 foot long creatures are actually voracious predators, they need to eat nearly continually to support their extremely high metabolism. they eat a wide variety of sea life much of which comes in shells - they use tools, stones
to crack open tough shellfish. they spend almost all their time in the water - they even sleep there wrapped up in kelp. when they do leave the water they're extremely clumsy - those feet are made for swimming. unlike other sea mammals they lack blubber and it's their fur and the air trapped in their fur that keeps them warm and afloat. that's critical, because the pacific is cold! well our good friends here at point lobos have some pelts out here that they use for education purposes and it gets us a chance to see up close how dense the hair is on a sea otter. not only how dense but how soft. take a look at that! a single square inch of that otter's fur may contain 400,000 hairs. i've heard up to a million hairs per square inch. way more than are on my entire body are in one square inch of this animal's pelt. that and the fact that, wow - it's soft!
that's what got this animal into such big, big trouble. the trade for otter fur in the 19th century quickly depleted this once common species to the point that by 1911 when their slaughter was outlawed they were thought to be extinct in california. they weren't seen again until a small colony was found here on the central california coast in 1938 and now, with complete protection for over 100 years there are perhaps 1,000 of these animals in california. they've recovered, somewhat. recently the trend in the population is downward. no single cause appears to be the smoking gun - even disease from cats whose waste washes into the ocean has been blamed. it seems that a general deterioration of the near-shore habitats from multiple causes may be the culprit. the cute sea otter isn't out of the woods yet. >>sea lion bellowing.
>>well, this is what most people think of when they think about a seal. the problem with that is that these aren't seals. well, at least they're not true seals. these are california sea lions - they're what we call eared seals. and you don't have to look at one very long to figure out why we call them eared seals. these pinipeds have visible external ears on their head and that's only one of the features that really sets them apart from the true seals, the hair seals like the harbor seals that we looked at earlier. check out those sea lions all the way up on the top of the rock. this time of the year in late winter through spring they're starting to form harems to breed and generally, the males, the big dominant bulls, which can be up to eight feet long and 600 pounds, those big bulls will get all the way up on top of the rock. now a hair seal can't do that, a harbor seal could never get up on top of a large rock. why? true seals, hair seals, have their pelvis locked in place, they don't have any
mobility there. these guys, eared seals, have a lot of mobility in their pelvis and that allows them to use those rear flippers. instead of being locked in place like a true seal they can fling them forward to crawl on all fours. that gives them a lot more mobility on land and allows them to climb. they also use those powerful front flippers for locomotion. whereas a true seal is going to use his back flippers like a tail, the way a fish moves by rotating the back end back and forth. these guys are going to use those powerful front flippers to propel themselves through the water. it's an incredible animal to watch and very typical and common in californian waters. the mountains rise directly from the coastline here and you need wander only a few hundred feet from the coast to experience dramatic change. the effect of exposure is dramatic and extreme here
in the santa lucia mountains. what we're looking at right here in front of us seems to be a clean-cut line between where there's grass and chaparral and where there's one of the most luxuriant forests anywhere in the world - redwood forests. the difference is just what we call exposure or aspect - is it facing south or is it facing north? that slope over there is facing north, the slope i'm standing on, absent of trees is facing south. that makes a huge difference because the sun in the northern hemisphere tends to track across the south and that means more heat, more droughty conditions, more evaporation on the south-facing slope and that means no redwoods. well we are headed down there to see trees that are among the largest living things on the planet. now, this is no chaparral. in fact, it's the farthest thing from it. this big, beautiful tree is a
coastal redwood, the tallest tree on earth. individuals a little farther north than this get to be over 360 feet tall. we're near the southern limit of its range here and here we're lucky to find 200-foot tall redwoods but some of these in this magnificent grove easily reach that. it's just amazing how dramatically different this habitat is from the habitat that exists just upslope on either side. a little bit of protection from desiccation and drought is all it takes to get redwoods here. but again, another relict, it depends on the moisture that's in this canyon bottom and it depends upon the summer fog to be here. an impressive forest and it's sheltered but it's not entirely sheltered from all of the ecological happenings that go on in this landscape. if you're going to stand in the same spot for a long enough time here, in this part
of california, eventually you're going to burn. that's exactly what happened to this giant, matriarch redwood, but it didn't die. very few people think about redwoods and fire going together but if you are living in this part of california you have to be adapted to deal with fire. when a redwood burns, it re-sprouts really, really thick spongy bark helps to keep that plant from burning all the way into the inner part of the wood. even when you burn off the branches and the leaves it can re-sprout. sometimes even when the tree is completely killed it will come back up from the root because they sprout right from the root. it's an incredible ecosystem, an incredible tree and believe it or not there's even more diversity to see. though not as rich in species as the chaparral or oak woodlands, redwood forests add greatly to the high regional diversity. many of the plants will remind
you of the eastern forests, several species of trillium grace these forests, the odor of the giant wakerobin is heavenly! some of california's strangest creatures are also found here. redwood forests may not be the most diverse habitat here in this part of california, but they add diversity because there's things here that you don't find in other habitats and this is one of them. this may be emblematic of redwood forests. it's a giant slug - it's called a banana slug. can you guess why? that's right, it's the color of a banana and it's about the length of a banana too. it's an incredibly large slug - it's one of the largest in the world. it's extremely important here ecologically because he's going around eating and functioning as a decomposer because he's going around eating dead stuff-fallen leaves and vegetation - cycling and recycling nutrients in this
system. they have interesting biology. they're hermaphrodites, they have both male and female parts. another interesting fact, uc-santa cruz, this is their mascot. not sure i'd want a slimy hermaphrodite for my mascot, but whatever works. i'm moving south, along one of the most beautiful coastlines in america. i stop to view one of the southernmost colonies of common murres, and find two species of alligator lizards, all the time headed towards one of the greatest survival stories of all. piedras blancas, it's one of my favorite places on the california coast. just south of big sur, in between san luis obispo and big sur we find one of the coolest beaches in the world - cool because of the critters that haul out here. >>♪music.
>>when i saw this animal for the first time, i knew it was going to be big, but i had no idea that it would be that massive! when you see one of these big males haul themselves out of the ocean it's like watching a school bus crawl up on the shore. it's an earless seal and you don't have to look very hard to figure out which earless seal it is. look at that schnoz, look at that nose, this is a northern elephant seal. those giant males can get big. 14-16 feet long and 3-5 thousand pounds. in fact there's some records that indicate they may have gotten up to 20 feet long and up to 8,000 pounds. that makes them one of the two largest seals in the world and the largest in the northern hemisphere. they have that nose that inflates and is flexible just like a short elephant's proboscis. it's there to indicate how big they are, how strong they are to other males because when these guys arrive on these breeding shores, they're jockeying for a position to breed. they collect harems,
harems of between 10 and 100 females and they defend those harems. they don't get much bloodier than the battles that we see with elephant seals. two males going at it with those giant canine teeth. usually hitting each other right in the neck and the chest area. all those scars on the front neck of that animal may look really, really painful. it probably doesn't feel much pain. it has so much fat and so much padding up there on the front that even though when these animals are battling it out and blooding themselves up with those giant canine teeth, they're probably not feeling much pain. their blubber is super thick and that's because they're feeding out in some pretty cold water. there's one animal right up close to the shore there, a little lighter, a little smaller, that may be a female-they're considerably smaller than the males but they still get up to about 1600 pounds commonly here. take a look at that seal's belly though, something
really amazing-tells us about where she's been. the belly of that seal has these little dark cookie-cutter-like divots in it, scars. they come from an animal called a cookie-cutter shark. and that tells us where this animal has been. it's been a long, long ways away from the coast here in california. these seals have lots of blubber and that means oil, so they were targeted by whalers for slaughter. by 1892, when it was thought they might be extinct around 20 animals were found on guadalupe island. with protection, this tiny remnant beat all the odds to survive - in fact - it increased - and today is the most numerous seal on california beaches. it's amazing to think that we now have over 150,000 elephant seals just here in california. right here at piedras blancas we had around 4,500 seals born last year. all these pups out here on
the beach but no mothers, where's mommy at? she's back out at sea. the amazing part about these animals is that they fast when they're here. and the pups, right now they're even fasting. these seals are born and then fed the richest milk in the entire animal kingdom, super rich in fat. and in only four weeks time, they quadruple their body weight. the females lose about a third of their body weight between giving birth and fasting when they're here. but then they take off and they leave the pups here where for 8 to 10 weeks they're going to learn how to be seals, how to swim on their own. during this time they call them weeners and that's what we have a beach full of here - a beach full of seal weaners. the big males fast too and that's even more extreme. a giant male like we see here may
have lost 1500 pounds over the breeding season because they're here for three months. and these animals don't just fast once a year, they do it twice because they're here to breed in the wintertime but then the big males will come back in the late summer and they do that to molt. these animals go through something called a catastrophic molt. where the entire outer layer of skin is shed all at one time when they're up on this beach. and they're not feeding close those females don't just go right off shore to find their food. these females go as far away as three thousand miles out into the north pacific. and they're divers, super adaptations for diving. these animals, before they dive expel all the air out of their lungs and then they dive down without any air at all in their lungs and that's really important because if you dive to super great depths and then come up quick and you have compressed air, that causes the bends,
nitrogen bubbles in your bloodstream. and then they actually reduce their heart-rate to only about 15 beats a minute. and when i say they dive deep, they dive super deep. this animal, the elephant seal dives all the way to the bottom in deep water, over 5,000 feet on the deepest dive recorded. that makes it the deepest dive of any mammal that's been recorded. the success of the human-seal interactions here is largely the result of a volunteer organization - the friends of the elephant seals. >>the seals started coming here in 1990. we had our first pup in '92. and this was private property; there was no fencing, and people were going down on the beach with the seals, harassing the seals, doing things like putting their kids on the back of a seal to take a picture. >>laughter. >>and we had a few serious bites. at that time the primary interest was in protecting the seals and the visitors. they
moved the highway further away from the beach, constructed the boardwalk, ah, anything that indicated that you shouldn't go down there, people were very good about. and we don't spend any of our time policing, we're entirely involved in educating. as a former faculty member and teacher in the university, this is without question the nicest teaching opportunity i've ever had. >>now that's an animal i bet you never thought about being on the central california coast. those are elk. it's the smallest subspecies of elk. it's called the tule elk. it's only a fraction of the size of the elk that you find out in the rocky mountain states, but it is endemic to california. this elk was found in the great central valley. its populations declined dramatically during the 1800's,
and by the turn of the 20th century it seemed like it was going to go extinct. a few dedicated individuals took those animals into captivity and a captive herd was started. now those were spread from the original population, which was established at owens valley to all different regions of the state and now it's really rather secure. the thing is this elk has never really returned home. this was an animal of the great grasslands that once filled the great central valley. today that same valley is filled with agriculture and quite literally there's no home left for this species. well the neat thing about this animal is that its decline and the decline of the great central valley is intricately linked to the decline of what is perhaps the most emblematic of all the rare species of california. and that's what it's all about,
that's why you come here, to see california condors flying again in the wild. it's a miracle! that bird can have a wingspan of 10 feet. it can weigh up to 20 pounds, making it one of the largest flying birds in the world and the largest wingspan of any bird in north america. the story of it flying again here in big sur is an incredible success story and truly is a miracle of conservation. during the ice ages, condors soared over most of north america. big birds need big food and this one ate carrion - lots of it - things like mastodon and mammoth. the extinction of these creatures sent condors into decline. by the 19th century they were only found here in california. habitat loss, shooting, the loss of elk and large marine mammals and finally lead poisoning from deer killed by hunters-brought them to extinction in the wild. in 1987
the last wild condors were captured and brought into captivity-then, the world's population was only 26 birds! many thought the program would fail. here the ventana wildlife society has worked to ensure the success of the program. they track the birds' daily movements, locate nests, transfer eggs from the wild to captive breeding programs and now condors have begun nesting on their own in redwoods - an event that hasn't occurred in over 100 years! if they eat lead shot they need to be captured and treated and we're just beginning to learn about their behavior in the wild. the hope is that someday in the near future even this won't be necessary and condors will increase enough to strike out on their own. their population is steadily approaching 200 - it is a symbol of hope - in my opinion, man's capacity to succeed. slowly those elements of california that once seemed doomed are returning.
>>♪music. >>now that's adorable! i don't care who you are. momma otter down there with her baby up on her chest. otters like this - they are getting rarer and rarer in this part of california. it turns out that the story from the struggle to survive for this animal isn't over yet. we've seen one success story after another here. let's hope that their story is the same. isn't it appropriate though that they sought refuge here in the sheltered bay - in a land that has sheltered so many for so long - california. i'm patrick mcmillan, wishing you your own exciting expedition.
to purchase a copy of expeditions with patrick mcmillan; california - hope, survival, and resilience, call toll free, 1-800-553-7752 or order online at www.etvstore.org >> welcome to "skyweek." let's see what's happening in the sky from monday, july 29, to sunday, august 4. with no moon to light up the evening sky, this week is ideal for viewing the milky way. sixty years ago, all you would need to do is step outside. but now most americans are surrounded by bright lights that blot out the milky way. so, seek out a truly dark location where you can see it as it should be... a broad, overwhelmingly bright
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